When the UCI announced Wednesday that Astana had retained its WorldTour licence despite several positive tests this season and a recent barrage of new doping allegations, the cycling social media world started spinning with a large volume of comments criticizing the UCI Licencing Commission's decision.
Astana started the ball rolling with a Tweet announcing the decision above a photograph of a yellow-jersey-wearing Vincenzo Nibali crossing a finish line at the Tour de France while looking to the heavens. The reactions were swift.
Scott Mercier, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong who was key to the USADA investigation of the former Tour de France winner, pulled no punches.
"No hope for cycling - Let's stop the charade," he wrote in a series of Tweets. "#Cycling is now officially worse than the #WWE - At least the WWE doesn't pretend to be clean. @BrianCooksonUCI Disheartening that you didn't have the #guts to stand up to #astana sure, they are one of many, but it would've been a start."
Mercier also suggested the UCI re-consider its treatment of Armstrong.
"Time to Give Lance his Tours "back"... like he ever "lost" them in the first place - All the guys he beat were on the same stuff ," Mercier wrote.
Peter Kennaugh, the 25-year-old Team Sky rider who won a stage and the overall at both Coppi e Bartoli and the Tour of Austria, took aim at some of the riders involved in the Padova investigation rather than the UCI's decision to award Astana a division-one licence for next year.
"Riders who were only 'trained' by Ferrari I mean come are you really that stupid ? And do you think everyone else is to?" Kennaugh Tweeted. "What a joke this sport can be! The clean riders of the peloton need to get together and push these cheats out enough is enough."
Following is a sampling of Twitter comments from other professional riders, fans and observers:
Marijn de Vries @marijnfietst – Professional rider with Giant-Alpecin women's team
I can't even express how disappointed I am, @UCI_cycling and @BrianCooksonUCI. How do you ever expect people to start trusting us again?!
Ryan Trebon @ryantrebon – Two-time US cyclo-cross champion
The @UCI_cycling and @BrianCooksonUCI have failed to show true leadership and a commitment to change the culture of this sport.
Just kicking the can down the road is all they are doing.
Race Radio @TheRaceRadio – Cycling observer
I could be wrong but I don't think Astana will make it an entire season with their license intact. I doubt they will make it to the Tour.
John Galloway @wjohngalloway – co-owner Velocast
So, cycling is now basically showbiz. Ethics be damned. I'm fine with that. At least we know where we stand. Thanks due to @BrianCooksonUCI.
The Inner Ring @inrng – Cycling observer
Astana can get a licence for 2015 but escaping Alexandr Vinokourov's toxic image is going to be a lot harder
Nicolas Geay @Nicogeay - French cycling journalist with France Télévisions
Les coureurs et le staff d'Astana boivent le champagne !!! (Riders and staff of Astana drinking champagne) [with a photo of said champagne being toasted and drink]